Saturday, September 6, 2008

Looking for some Friday night lights

When the sun disappears in the sky and the stadium lights cast their familiar glow on the horizon, I can't help but turn into Uncle Rico - with more career touchdowns - on fall Friday nights.

Whether I've been on the sideline, in the bleachers, on the field or in the press box, almost nothing moves me like the theater of high school football. It all feels familiar, whether I'm in some small north Louisiana town or a multimillion dollar big-city complex. Give me a ticket, some binoculars and a roster from the booster club, and I can make myself at home almost anywhere.

But to be honest, it's hard not to miss the feeling of playing beneath the Friday night lights. Even today, at 30, I can still remember tense moments in the huddle with my teammates, some of them still my close friends today. Of course, in our memories, we're all better, faster and stronger than the 185-pound, nerve-wracked teenagers that we really were.

I suspect this revisionist's version of history also has fogged my perspective of all the super blue-chippers I've had the privilege to cover over the years: Vince Young will always be my favorite highlight reel of a quarterback; Adrian Peterson will remain an unheard-of east Texas tailback bound to make it big; and I will never understand why Roylin Bradley couldn't make it on the next level. It's tough to reconcile the reality with my memories, you know?

Anyway, as I drove by a half-dozen stadiums on the way home from work last night, I was reminded of all the kids who got their first bit of varsity action or were hoping they caught the eye of a recruiter or were simply hoping this was the first step en route to a state title.

I was all of them once and it made me a little wistful for my youth. Uncle Rico would understand. And maybe you, too.
(Photo credit goes to - at one of the stadiums I've visited before in Friendswood, Texas. Great place, great photo.)

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